Communicating With Donors Amid COVID-19

Written by Jessica Browning, Principal and Executive Vice President

We’ve heard too many universities, ministries, and nonprofits say they want to wait a few weeks—until things settle down—to reach out to their donors. “We don’t want to bother our donors when they have so many important things they’re dealing with.” Others say, “we’re not a food bank or a homeless shelter. Our needs just aren’t as

This kind of thinking can be catastrophic.

Healthy communication is key to every relationship…including the ones you have with your donors.

Who: Start at the top.

You should be reaching out to all your donors in some fashion, but it’s important to start with your largest donors and primary funders. Hopefully you can name your top 25-50 donors off the top of your head. These are your partners—the ones who will get you through the next two months.

Call them. Ask how they’re doing. Ask about their children, their business. Then tell them you wanted to give them an update on what’s happening at your school, your church, or your nonprofit—and how you’re solving the crisis around you.

Be vulnerable. It’s okay to tell them you don’t have all the answers. As long as you have a plan and a commitment to serve your constituents, your donors will give you the benefit of the doubt.

Be transparent and honest and ask for their input. After all, they are your partner. This call is not a request for money, but a wellness call. We’ve heard tremendous response from organizations that are doing this. Their donors are genuinely delighted to hear from the nonprofit and anxious to talk about the cause, the museum, or the school they love.

Who: Use your board or senior staff.

Engage your board in the process of calling major donors. Determine who knows whom and then ask your board to make some of the check-in calls. Emails are also fine for some of your board members who are new to this or less comfortable making a phone call. Encourage them to use the same basic pointers as discussed above.

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